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On Airs, Waters, and Places 
By Hippocrates 

Translated by Francis Adams 


Whoever wishes to investigate medicine properly, should proceed thus: 
in the first place to consider the seasons of the year, and what effects 
each of them produces for they are not at all alike, but differ much 
from themselves in regard to their changes. Then the winds, the hot 
and the cold, especially such as are common to all countries, and 
then such as are peculiar to each locality. We must also consider 
the qualities of the waters, for as they differ from one another in 
taste and weight, so also do they differ much in their qualities. 
In the same manner, when one comes into a city to which he is a stranger, 
he ought to consider its situation, how it lies as to the winds and 
the rising of the sun; for its influence is not the same whether it 
lies to the north or the south, to the rising or to the setting sun. 
These things one ought to consider most attentively, and concerning 
the waters which the inhabitants use, whether they be marshy and soft, 
or hard, and running from elevated and rocky situations, and then 
if saltish and unfit for cooking; and the ground, whether it be naked 
and deficient in water, or wooded and well watered, and whether it 
lies in a hollow, confined situation, or is elevated and cold; and 
the mode in which the inhabitants live, and what are their pursuits, 
whether they are fond of drinking and eating to excess, and given 
to indolence, or are fond of exercise and labor, and not given to 
excess in eating and drinking. 


From these things he must proceed to investigate everything else. 

For if one knows all these things well, or at least the greater part 

of them, he cannot miss knowing, when he comes into a strange city, 

either the diseases peculiar to the place, or the particular nature 

of common diseases, so that he will not be in doubt as to the treatment 

of the diseases, or commit mistakes, as is likely to be the case provided 

one had not previously considered these matters. And in particular, 

as the season and the year advances, he can tell what epidemic diseases 

will attack the city, either in summer or in winter, and what each 

individual will be in danger of experiencing from the change of regimen. 

For knowing the changes of the seasons, the risings and settings of 

the stars, how each of them takes place, he will be able to know beforehand 

what sort of a year is going to ensue. Having made these investigations, 

and knowing beforehand the seasons, such a one must be acquainted 

with each particular, and must succeed in the preservation of health, 

and be by no means unsuccessful in the practice of his art. And if 

it shall be thought that these things belong rather to meteorology, 

it will be admitted, on second thoughts, that astronomy contributes 

not a little, but a very great deal, indeed, to medicine. For with 

the seasons the digestive organs of men undergo a change. 


But how of the aforementioned things should be investigated and explained, 
I will now declare in a clear manner. A city that is exposed to hot 

winds (these are between the wintry rising, and the wintry setting 
of the sun) , and to which these are peculiar, but which is sheltered 
from the north winds; in such a city the waters will be plenteous 
and saltish, and as they run from an elevated source, they are necessarily 
hot in summer, and cold in winter; the heads of the inhabitants are 
of a humid and pituitous constitution, and their bellies subject to 
frequent disorders, owing to the phlegm running down from the head; 
the forms of their bodies, for the most part, are rather flabby; they 
do not eat nor drink much; drinking wine in particular, and more especially 
if carried to intoxication, is oppressive to them; and the following 
diseases are peculiar to the district: in the first place, the women 
are sickly and subject to excessive menstruation; then many are unfruitful 
from disease, and not from nature, and they have frequent miscarriages; 
infants are subject to attacks of convulsions and asthma, which they 
consider to be connected with infancy, and hold to be a sacred disease 
(epilepsy) . The men are subject to attacks of dysentery, diarrhea, 
hepialus, chronic fevers in winter, of epinyctis, frequently, and 
of hemorrhoids about the anus. Pleurisies, peripneumonies, ardent 
fevers, and whatever diseases are reckoned acute, do not often occur, 
for such diseases are not apt to prevail where the bowels are loose. 
Ophthalmies occur of a humid character, but not of a serious nature, 
and of short duration, unless they attack epidemically from the change 
of the seasons. And when they pass their fiftieth year, defluxions 
supervening from the brain, render them paralytic when exposed suddently 
to strokes of the sun, or to cold. These diseases are endemic to them, 
and, moreover, if any epidemic disease connected with the change of 
the seasons, prevail, they are also liable to it. 


But the following is the condition of cities which have the opposite 

exposure, namely, to cold winds, between the summer settings and the 

summer risings of the sun, and to which these winds are peculiar, 

and which are sheltered from the south and the hot breezes. In the 

first place the waters are, for the most part, hard cold. The men 

must necessarily be well braced and slender, and they must have the 

discharges downwards of the alimentary canal hard, and of difficult 

evacuation, while those upwards are more fluid, and rather bilious 

than pituitous. Their heads are sound and hard, and they are liable 

to burstings (of vessels?) for the most part. The diseases which prevail 

epidemically with them, are pleurisies, and those which are called 

acute diseases. This must be the case when the bowels are bound; and 

from any causes, many become affected with suppurations in the lungs, 

the cause of which is the tension of the body, and hardness of the 

bowels; for their dryness and the coldness of the water dispose them 

to ruptures (of vessels?) . Such constitutions must be given to excess 

of eating, but not of drinking; for it is not possible to be gourmands 

and drunkards at the same time. Ophthalmies, too, at length supervene; 

these being of a hard and violent nature, and soon ending in rupture 

of the eyes; persons under thirty years of age are liable to severe 

bleedings at the nose in summer; attacks of epilepsy are rare but 

severe. Such people are likely to be rather long-lived; their ulcers 

are not attended with serious discharges, nor of a malignant character; 

in disposition they are rather ferocious than gentle. The diseases 

I have mentioned are peculiar to the men, and besides they are liable 

to any common complaint which may be prevailing from the changes of 

the seasons. But the women, in the first place, are of a hard constitution, 

from the waters being hard, indigestible, and cold; and their menstrual 

discharges are not regular, but in small quantity, and painful. Then 

they have difficult parturition, but are not very subject to abortions. 

And when they do bring forth children, they are unable to nurse them; 

for the hardness and indigestable nature of the water puts away their 

milk. Phthisis frequently supervenes after childbirth, for the efforts 
of it frequently bring on ruptures and strains. Children while still 
little are subject to dropsies in the testicle, which disappear as 
they grow older; in such a town they are late in attaining manhood. 
It is, as I have now stated, with regard to hot and cold winds and 
cities thus exposed. 


Cities that are exposed to winds between the summer and the winter 
risings of the sun, and those the opposite to them, have the following 
characters:- Those which lie to the rising of the sun are all likely 
to be more healthy than such as are turned to the North, or those 
exposed to the hot winds, even if there should not be a furlong between 
them. In the first place, both the heat and cold are more moderate. 
Then such waters as flow to the rising sun, must necessarily be clear, 
fragrant, soft, and delightful to drink, in such a city. For the sun 
in rising and shining upon them purifies them, by dispelling the vapors 
which generally prevail in the morning. The persons of the inhabitants 
are, for the most part, well colored and blooming, unless some disease 
counteract. The inhabitants have clear voices, and in temper and intellect 
are superior to those which are exposed to the north, and all the 
productions of the country in like manner are better. A city so situated 
resembles the spring as to moderation between heat and cold, and the 
diseases are few in number, and of a feeble kind, and bear a resemblance 
to the diseases which prevail in regions exposed to hot winds. The 
women there are very prolific, and have easy deliveries. Thus it is 
with regard to them. 


But such cities as lie to the west, and which are sheltered from winds 

blowing from the east, and which the hot winds and the cold winds 

of the north scarcely touch, must necessarily be in a very unhealthy 

situation: in the first place the waters are not clear, the cause 

of which is, because the mist prevails commonly in the morning, and 

it is mixed up with the water and destroys its clearness, for the 

sun does not shine upon the water until he be considerably raised 

above the horizon. And in summer, cold breezes from the east blow 

and dews fall; and in the latter part of the day the setting sun particularly 

scorches the inhabitants, and therefore they are pale and enfeebled, 

and are partly subject to all the aforesaid diseases, but no one is 

peculiar to them. Their voices are rough and hoarse owing to the state 

of the air, which in such a situation is generally impure and unwholesome, 

for they have not the northern winds to purify it; and these winds 

they have are of a very humid character, such being the nature of 

the evening breezes. Such a situation of a city bears a great resemblance 

to autumn as regards the changes of the day, inasmuch as the difference 

between morning and evening is great. So it is with regard to the 

winds that are conducive to health, or the contrary. 


And I wish to give an account of the other kinds of waters, namely, 
of such as are wholesome and such as are unwholesome, and what bad 
and what good effects may be derived from water; for water contributes 
much towards health. Such waters then as are marshy, stagnant, and 
belong to lakes, are necessarily hot in summer, thick, and have a 

strong smell, since they have no current; but being constantly supplied 

by rain-water, and the sun heating them, they necessarily want their 

proper color, are unwholesome and form bile; in winter, they become 

congealed, cold, and muddy with the snow and ice, so that they are 

most apt to engender phlegm, and bring on hoarseness; those who drink 

them have large and obstructed spleens, their bellies are hard, emaciated, 

and hot; and their shoulders, collar-bones, and faces are emaciated; 

for their flesh is melted down and taken up by the spleen, and hence 

they are slender; such persons then are voracious and thirsty; their 

bellies are very dry both above and below, so that they require the 

strongest medicines. This disease is habitual to them both in summer 

and in winter, and in addition they are very subject to dropsies of 

a most fatal character; and in summer dysenteries, diarrheas, and 

protracted quartan fevers frequently seize them, and these diseases 

when prolonged dispose such constitutions to dropsies, and thus prove 

fatal. These are the diseases which attack them in summer; but in 

winter younger persons are liable to pneumonia, and maniacal affections; 

and older persons to ardent fevers, from hardness of the belly. Women 

are subject to oedema and leucophlegmasiae; when pregnant they have 

difficult deliveries; their infants are large and swelled, and then 

during nursing they become wasted and sickly, and the lochial discharge 

after parturition does not proceed properly with the women. The children 

are particularly subject to hernia, and adults to varices and ulcers 

on their legs, so that persons with such constitutions cannot be long-lived, 

but before the usual period they fall into a state of premature old 

age. And further, the women appear to be with child, and when the 

time of parturition arrives, the fulness of the belly disappears, 

and this happens from dropsy of the uterus. Such waters then I reckon 

bad for every purpose. The next to them in badness are those which 

have their fountains in rocks, so that they must necessarily be hard, 

or come from a soil which produces thermal waters, such as those having 

iron, copper, silver, gold, sulphur, alum, bitumen, or nitre (soda) 

in them; for all these are formed by the force of heat. Good waters 

cannot proceed from such a soil, but those that are hard and of a 

heating nature, difficult to pass by urine, and of difficult evacuation 

by the bowels. The best are those which flow from elevated grounds, 

and hills of earth; these are sweet, clear, and can bear a little 

wine; they are hot in summer and cold in winter, for such necessarily 

must be the waters from deep wells. But those are most to be commended 

which run to the rising of the sun, and especially to the summer sun; 

for such are necessarily more clear, fragrant, and light. But all 

such as are salty, crude, and harsh, are not good for drink. But there 

are certain constitutions and diseases with which such waters agree 

when drunk, as I will explain presently. Their characters are as follows: 

the best are such as have their fountains to the east; the next, those 

between the summer risings and settings of the sun, and especially 

those to the risings; and third, those between the summer and winter 

settings; but the worst are those to the south, and the parts between 

the winter rising and setting, and those to the south are very bad, 

but those to the north are better. They are to be used as follows: 

whoever is in good health and strength need not mind, but may always 

drink whatever is at hand. But whoever wishes to drink the most suitable 

for any disease, may accomplish his purpose by attending to the following 

directions: To persons whose bellies are hard and easily burnt up, 

the sweetest, the lightest, and the most limpid waters will be proper; 

but those persons whose bellies are soft, loose, and pituitous, should 

choose the hardest, those kinds that are most crude, and the saltiest, 

for thus will they be most readily dried up; for such waters as are 

adapted for boiling, and are of a very solvent nature, naturally loosen 

readily and melt down the bowels; but such as are intractable, hard, 

and by no means proper for boiling, these rather bind and dry up the 

bowels. People have deceived themselves with regard to salt waters, 

from inexperience, for they think these waters purgative, whereas 

they are the very reverse; for such waters are crude, and ill adapted 

for boiling, so that the belly is more likely to be bound up than 
loosened by them. And thus it is with regard to the waters of springs. 


I will now tell how it is with respect to rain-water, and water from 

snow. Rain waters, then, are the lightest, the sweetest, the thinnest, 

and the clearest; for originally the sun raises and attracts the thinnest 

and lightest part of the water, as is obvious from the nature of salts; 

for the saltish part is left behind owing to its thickness and weight, 

and forms salts; but the sun attracts the thinnest part, owing to 

its lightness, and he abstracts this not only from the lakes, but 

also from the sea, and from all things which contain humidity, and 

there is humidity in everything; and from man himself the sun draws 

off the thinnest and lightest part of the juices. As a strong proof 

of this, when a man walks in the sun, or sits down having a garment 

on, whatever parts of the body the sun shines upon do not sweat, for 

the sun carries off whatever sweat makes its appearance; but those 

parts which are covered by the garment, or anything else, sweat, for 

the particles of sweat are drawn and forced out by the sun, and are 

preserved by the cover so as not to be dissipated by the sun; but 

when the person comes into the shade the whole body equally perspires, 

because the sun no longer shines upon it. Wherefore, of all kinds 

of water, these spoil the soonest; and rain water has a bad spot smell, 

because its particles are collected and mixed together from most objects, 

so as to spoil the soonest. And in addition to this, when attracted 

and raised up, being carried about and mixed with the air, whatever 

part of it is turbid and darkish is separated and removed from the 

other, and becomes cloud and mist, but the most attenuated and lightest 

part is left, and becomes sweet, being heated and concocted by the 

sun, for all other things when concocted become sweet. While dissipated 

then and not in a state of consistence it is carried aloft. But when 

collected and condensed by contrary winds, it falls down wherever 

it happens to be most condensed. For this is likely to happen when 

the clouds being carried along and moving with a wind which does not 

allow them to rest, suddenly encounters another wind and other clouds 

from the opposite direction: there it is first condensed, and what 

is behind is carried up to the spot, and thus it thickens, blackens, 

and is conglomerated, and by its weight it falls down and becomes 

rain. Such, to all appearance, are the best of waters, but they require 

to be boiled and strained; for otherwise they have a bad smell, and 

occasion hoarseness and thickness of the voice to those who drink 

them. Those from snow and ice are all bad, for when once congealed, 

they never again recover their former nature; for whatever is clear, 

light, and sweet in them, is separated and disappears; but the most 

turbid and weightiest part is left behind. You may ascertain this 

in the following manner: If in winter you will pour water by measure 

into a vessel and expose it to the open air until it is all frozen, 

and then on the following day bring it into a warm situation where 

the ice will thaw, if you will measure the water again when dissolved 

you will find it much less in quantity. This is a proof that the lightest 

and thinnest part is dissipated and dried up by the congelation, and 

not the heaviest and thickest, for that is impossible: wherefore I 

hold that waters from snow and ice, and those allied to them, are 

the worst of any for all purposes whatever. Such are the characters 

of rain-water, and those from ice and snow. 


Men become affected with the stone, and are seized with diseases of 

the kidneys, strangury, sciatica, and become ruptured, when they drink 

all sorts of waters, and those from great rivers into which other 

rivulets run, or from a lake into which many streams of all sorts 

flow, and such as are brought from a considerable distance. For it 

is impossible that such waters can resemble one another, but one kind 

is sweet, another saltish and aluminous, and some flow from thermal 

springs; and these being all mixed up together disagree, and the strongest 

part always prevails; but the same kind is not always the strongest, 

but sometimes one and sometimes another, according to the winds, for 

the north wind imparts strength to this water, and the south to that, 

and so also with regard to the others. There must be deposits of mud 

and sand in the vessels from such waters, and the aforesaid diseases 

must be engendered by them when drunk, but why not to all I will now 

explain. When the bowels are loose and in a healthy state, and when 

the bladder is not hot, nor the neck of the bladder very contracted, 

all such persons pass water freely, and no concretion forms in the 

bladder; but those in whom the belly is hot, the bladder must be in 

the same condition; and when preternaturally heated, its neck becomes 

inflamed; and when these things happen, the bladder does not expel 

the urine, but raises its heat excessively. And the thinnest part 

of it is secreted, and the purest part is passed off in the form of 

urine, but the thickest and most turbid part is condensed and concreted, 

at first in small quantity, but afterwards in greater; for being rolled 

about in the urine, whatever is of a thick consistence it assimilates 

to itself, and thus it increases and becomes indurated. And when such 

persons make water, the stone forced down by the urine falls into 

the neck of the bladder and stops the urine, and occasions intense 

pain; so that calculous children rub their privy parts and tear at 

them, as supposing that the obstruction to the urine is situated there. 

As a proof that it is as I say, persons affected with calculus have 

very limpid urine, because the thickest and foulest part remains and 

is concreted. Thus it generally is in cases of calculus. It forms 

also in children from milk, when it is not wholesome, but very hot 

and bilious, for it heats the bowels and bladder, so that the urine 

being also heated undergoes the same change. And I hold that it is 

better to give children only the most diluted wine, for such will 

least burn up and dry the veins. Calculi do not form so readily in 

women, for in them the urethra is short and wide, so that in them 

the urine is easily expelled; neither do they rub the pudendum with 

their hands, nor handle the passage like males; for the urethra in 

women opens direct into the pudendum, which is not the case with men, 

neither in them is the urethra so wide, and they drink more than children 

do. Thus, or nearly so, is it with regard to them. 

PART 10 

And respecting the seasons, one may judge whether the year will prove 
sickly or healthy from the following observations:- If the appearances 
connected with the rising and setting stars be as they should be; 
if there be rains in autumn; if the winter be mild, neither very tepid 
nor unseasonably cold, and if in spring the rains be seasonable, and 
so also in summer, the year is likely to prove healthy. But if the 
winter be dry and northerly, and the spring showery and southerly, 
the summer will necessarily be of a febrile character, and give rise 
to ophthalmies and dysenteries. For when suffocating heat sets in 
all of a sudden, while the earth is moistened by the vernal showers, 
and by the south wind, the heat is necessarily doubled from the earth, 
which is thus soaked by rain and heated by a burning sun, while, at 
the same time, men's bellies are not in an orderly state, nor the 
brain properly dried; for it is impossible, after such a spring, but 
that the body and its flesh must be loaded with humors, so that very 
acute fevers will attack all, but especially those of a phlegmatic 

constitution. Dysenteries are also likely to occur to women and those 

of a very humid temperament. And if at the rising of the Dogstar rain 

and wintery storms supervene, and if the etesian winds blow, there 

is reason to hope that these diseases will cease, and that the autumn 

will be healthy; but if not, it is likely to be a fatal season to 

children and women, but least of all to old men; and that convalescents 

will pass into quartans, and from quartans into dropsies; but if the 

winter be southerly, showery and mild, but the spring northerly, dry, 

and of a wintry character, in the first place women who happen to 

be with child, and whose accouchement should take place in spring, 

are apt to miscarry; and such as bring forth, have feeble and sickly 

children, so that they either die presently or are tender, feeble, 

and sickly, if they live. Such is the case with the women. The others 

are subject to dysenteries and dry ophthalmies, and some have catarrhs 

beginning in the head and descending to the lungs. Men of a phlegmatic 

temperament are likely to have dysenteries; and women, also, from 

the humidity of their nature, the phlegm descending downwards from 

the brain; those who are bilious, too, have dry ophthalmies from the 

heat and dryness of their flesh; the aged, too, have catarrhs from 

their flabbiness and melting of the veins, so that some of them die 

suddenly and some become paralytic on the right side or the left. 

For when, the winter being southerly and the body hot, the blood and 

veins are not properly constringed; a spring that is northerly, dry, 

and cold, having come on, the brain when it should have been expanded 

and purged, by the coryza and hoarseness is then constringed and contracted, 

so that the summer and the heat occurring suddenly, and a change supervening, 

these diseases fall out. And such cities as lie well to the sun and 

winds, and use good waters, feel these changes less, but such as use 

marshy and pooly waters, and lie well both as regards the winds and 

the sun, these all feel it more. And if the summer be dry, those diseases 

soon cease, but if rainy, they are protracted; and there is danger 

of any sore that there is becoming phagedenic from any cause; and 

lienteries and dropsies supervene at the conclusion of diseases; for 

the bowels are not readily dried up. And if the summer be rainy and 

southerly, and next the autumn, the winter must, of necessity, be 

sickly, and ardent fevers are likely to attack those that are phlegmatic, 

and more elderly than forty years, and pleurisies and peripneumonies 

those that are bilious. But if the summer is parched and northerly, 

but the autumn rainy and southerly, headache and sphacelus of the 

brain are likely to occur; and in addition hoarseness, coryza, coughs, 

and in some cases, consumption. But if the season is northerly and 

without water, there being no rain, neither after the Dogstar nor 

Arcturus; this state agrees best with those who are naturally phlegmatic, 

with those who are of a humid temperament, and with women; but it 

is most inimical to the bilious; for they become much parched up, 

and ophthalmies of a dry nature supervene, fevers both acute and chronic, 

and in some cases melancholy; for the most humid and watery part of 

the bile being consumed, the thickest and most acrid portion is left, 

and of the blood likewise, when these diseases came upon them. But 

all these are beneficial to the phlegmatic, for they are thereby dried 

up, and reach winter not oppressed with humors, but with them dried 

up . 

PART 11 

Whoever studies and observes these things may be able to foresee most 
of the effects which will result from the changes of the seasons; 
and one ought to be particularly guarded during the greatest changes 
of the seasons, and neither willingly give medicines, nor apply the 
cautery to the belly, nor make incisions there until ten or more days 
be past. Now, the greatest and most dangerous are the two solstices, 
and especially the summer, and also the two equinoxes, but especially 

the autumnal. One ought also to be guarded about the rising of the 
stars, especially of the Dogstar, then of Arcturus, and then the setting 
of the Pleiades; for diseases are especially apt to prove critical 
in those days, and some prove fatal, some pass off, and all others 
change to another form and another constitution. So it is with regard 
to them. 

PART 12 

I wish to show, respecting Asia and Europe, how, in all respects, 
they differ from one another, and concerning the figure of the inhabitants, 
for they are different, and do not at all resemble one another. To 
treat of all would be a long story, but I will tell you how I think 
it is with regard to the greatest and most marked differences. I say, 
then, that Asia differs very much from Europe as to the nature of 
all things, both With regard to the productions of the earth and the 
inhabitants, for everything is produced much more beautiful and large 
in Asia; the country is milder, and the dispositions of the inhabitants 
also are more gentle and affectionate. The cause of this is the temperature 
of the seasons, because it lies in the middle of the risings of the 
sun towards the east, and removed from the cold (and heat) , for nothing 
tends to growth and mildness so much as when the climate has no predominant 
quality, but a general equality of temperature prevails. It is not 
everywhere the same with regard to Asia, but such parts of the country 
as lie intermediate between the heat and the cold, are the best supplied 
with fruits and trees, and have the most genial climate, and enjoy 
the purest waters, both celestial and terrestrial. For neither are 
they much burnt up by the heat, nor dried up by the drought and want 
of rain, nor do they suffer from the cold; since they are well watered 
from abundant showers and snow, and the fruits of the season, as might 
be supposed, grow in abundance, both such as are raised from seed 
that has been sown, and such plants as the earth produces of its own 
accord, the fruits of which the inhabitants make use of, training 
them from their wild state and transplanting them to a suitable soil; 
the cattle also which are reared there are vigorous, particularly 
prolific, and bring up young of the fairest description; the inhabitants 
too, are well fed, most beautiful in shape, of large stature, and 
differ little from one another either as to figure or size; and the 
country itself, both as regards its constitution and mildness of the 
seasons, may be said to bear a close resemblance to the spring. Manly 
courage, endurance of suffering, laborious enterprise, and high spirit, 
could not be produced in such a state of things either among the native 
inhabitants or those of a different country, for there pleasure necessarily 
reigns. For this reason, also, the forms of wild beasts there are 
much varied. Thus it is, as I think, with the Egyptians and Libyans. 

PART 13 

But concerning those on the right hand of the summer risings of the 
sun as far as the Palus Maeotis (for this is the boundary of Europe 
and Asia), it is with them as follows: the inhabitants there differ 
far more from one another than those I have treated of above, owing 
to the differences of the seasons and the nature of the soil. But 
with regard to the country itself, matters are the same there as among 
all other men; for where the seasons undergo the greatest and most 
rapid changes, there the country is the wildest and most unequal; 
and you will find the greatest variety of mountains, forests, plains, 
and meadows; but where the seasons do not change much there the country 
is the most even; and, if one will consider it, so is it also with 
regard to the inhabitants; for the nature of some is like to a country 

covered with trees and well watered; of some, to a thin soil deficient 
in water; of others, to fenny and marshy places; and of some again, 
to a plain of bare and parched land. For the seasons which modify 
their natural frame of body are varied, and the greater the varieties 
of them the greater also will be the differences of their shapes. 

PART 14 

I will pass over the smaller differences among the nations, but will 

now treat of such as are great either from nature, or custom; and, 

first, concerning the Macrocephali . There is no other race of men 

which have heads in the least resembling theirs. At first, usage was 

the principal cause of the length of their head, but now nature cooperates 

with usage. They think those the most noble who have the longest heads. 

It is thus with regard to the usage: immediately after the child is 

born, and while its head is still tender, they fashion it with their 

hands, and constrain it to assume a lengthened shape by applying bandages 

and other suitable contrivances whereby the spherical form of the 

head is destroyed, and it is made to increase in length. Thus, at 

first, usage operated, so that this constitution was the result of 

force: but, in the course of time, it was formed naturally; so that 

usage had nothing to do with it; for the semen comes from all parts 

of the body, sound from the sound parts, and unhealthy from the unhealthy 

parts. If, then, children with bald heads are born to parents with 

bald heads; and children with blue eves to parents who have blue eyes; 

and if the children of parents having distorted eyes squint also for 

the most part; and if the same may be said of other forms of the body, 

what is to prevent it from happening that a child with a long head 

should be produced by a parent having a long head? But now these things 

do not happen as they did formerly, for the custom no longer prevails 

owing to their intercourse with other men. Thus it appears to me to 

be with regard to them. 

PART 15 

As to the inhabitants of Phasis, their country is fenny, warm, humid, 
and wooded; copious and severe rains occur there at all seasons; and 
the life of the inhabitants is spent among the fens; for their dwellings 
are constructed of wood and reeds, and are erected amidst the waters; 
they seldom practice walking either to the city or the market, but 
sail about, up and down, in canoes constructed out of single trees, 
for there are many canals there. They drink the hot and stagnant waters, 
both when rendered putrid by the sun, and when swollen with rains. 
The Phasis itself is the most stagnant of all rivers, and runs the 
smoothest; all the fruits which spring there are unwholesome, feeble 
and imperfect growth, owing to the redundance of water, and on this 
account they do not ripen, for much vapor from the waters overspreads 
the country. For these reasons the Phasians have shapes different 
from those of all other men; for they are large in stature, and of 
a very gross habit of body, so that not a joint nor vein is visible; 
in color they are sallow, as if affected with jaundice. Of all men 
they have the roughest voices, from their breathing an atmosphere 
which is not clear, but misty and humid; they are naturally rather 
languid in supporting bodily fatigue. The seasons undergo but little 
change either as to heat or cold; their winds for the most part are 
southerly, with the exception of one peculiar to the country, which 
sometimes blows strong, is violent and hot, and is called by them 
the wind cenchron. The north wind scarcely reaches them, and when 
it does blow it is weak and gentle. Thus it is with regard to the 
different nature and shape of the inhabitants of Asia and Europe. 

PART 16 

And with regard to the pusillanimity and cowardice of the inhabitants, 
the principal reason the Asiatics are more unwarlike and of gentler 
disposition than the Europeans is, the nature of the seasons, which 
do not undergo any great changes either to heat or cold, or the like; 
for there is neither excitement of the understanding nor any strong 
change of the body whereby the temper might be ruffled and they be 
roused to inconsiderate emotion and passion, rather than living as 
they do always in the state. It is changes of all kinds which arouse 
understanding of mankind, and do not allow them to get into a torpid 
condition. For these reasons, it appears to me, the Asiatic race is 
feeble, and further, owing to their laws; for monarchy prevails in 
the greater part of Asia, and where men are not their own masters 
nor independent, but are the slaves of others, it is not a matter 
of consideration with them how they may acquire military discipline, 
but how they may seem not to be warlike, for the dangers are not equally 
shared, since they must serve as soldiers, perhaps endure fatigue, 
and die for their masters, far from their children, their wives, and 
other friends; and whatever noble and manly actions they may perform 
lead only to the aggrandizement of their masters, whilst the fruits 
which they reap are dangers and death; and, in addition to all this, 
the lands of such persons must be laid waste by the enemy and want 
of culture. Thus, then, if any one be naturally warlike and courageous, 
his disposition will be changed by the institutions. As a strong proof 
of all this, such Greeks or barbarians in Asia as are not under a 
despotic form of government, but are independent, and enjoy the fruits 
of their own labors, are of all others the most warlike; for these 
encounter dangers on their own account, bear the prizes of their own 
valor, and in like manner endure the punishment of their own cowardice. 
And you will find the Asiatics differing from one another, for some 
are better and others more dastardly; of these differences, as I stated 
before, the changes of the seasons are the cause. Thus it is with 
Asia . 

PART 17 

In Europe there is a Scythian race, called Sauromatae, which inhabits 

the confines of the Palus Maeotis, and is different from all other 

races. Their women mount on horseback, use the bow, and throw the 

javelin from their horses, and fight with their enemies as long as 

they are virgins; and they do not lay aside their virginity until 

they kill three of their enemies, nor have any connection with men 

until they perform the sacrifices according to law. Whoever takes 

to herself a husband, gives up riding on horseback unless the necessity 

of a general expedition obliges her. They have no right breast; for 

while still of a tender age their mothers heat strongly a copper instrument 

constructed for this very purpose, and apply it to the right breast, 

which is burnt up, and its development being arrested, all the strength 

and fullness are determined to the right shoulder and arm. 

PART 18 

As the other Scythians have a peculiarity of shape, and do not resemble 
any other, the same observation applies to the Egyptians, only that 
the latter are oppressed by heat and the former by cold. What is called 
the Scythian desert is a prairie, rich in meadows, high-lying, and 

well watered; for the rivers which carry off the water from the plains 
are large. There live those Scythians which are called Nomades, because 
they have no houses, but live in wagons. The smallest of these wagons 
have four wheels, but some have six; they are covered in with felt, 
and they are constructed in the manner of houses, some having but 
a single apartment, and some three; they are proof against rain, snow, 
and winds. The wagons are drawn by yokes of oxen, some of two and 
others of three, and all without horns, for they have no horns, owing 
to the cold. In these wagons the women live, but the men are carried 
about on horses, and the sheep, oxen, and horses accompany them; and 
they remain on any spot as long as there is provender for their cattle, 
and when that fails they migrate to some other place. They eat boiled 
meat, and drink the milk of mares, and also eat hippace, which is 
cheese prepared from the milk of the mare. Such is their mode of life 
and their customs. 

PART 19 

In respect of the seasons and figure of body, the Scythian race, like 

the Egyptian, have a uniformity of resemblance, different from all 

other nations; they are by no means prolific, and the wild beasts 

which are indigenous there are small in size and few in number, for 

the country lies under the Northern Bears, and the Rhiphaean mountains, 

whence the north wind blows; the sun comes very near to them only 

when in the summer solstice, and warms them but for a short period, 

and not strongly; and the winds blowing from the hot regions of the 

earth do not reach them, or but seldom, and with little force; but 

the winds from the north always blow, congealed, as they are, by the 

snow, ice, and much water, for these never leave the mountains, which 

are thereby rendered uninhabitable. A thick fog covers the plains 

during the day, and amidst it they live, so that winter may be said 

to be always present with them; or, if they have summer, it is only 

for a few days, and the heat is not very strong. Their plains are 

high-lying and naked, not crowned with mountains, but extending upwards 

under the Northern Bears. The wild beasts there are not large, but 

such as can be sheltered underground; for the cold of winter and the 

barrenness of the country prevent their growth, and because they have 

no covert nor shelter. The changes of the seasons, too, are not great 

nor violent, for, in fact, they change gradually; and therefore their 

figures resemble one another, as they all equally use the same food, 

and the same clothing summer and winter, respiring a humid and dense 

atmosphere, and drinking water from snow and ice; neither do they 

make any laborious exertions, for neither body nor mind is capable 

of enduring fatigue when the changes of the seasons are not great. 

For these reasons their shapes are gross and fleshy, with ill-marked 

joints, of a humid temperament, and deficient in tone: the internal 

cavities, and especially those of the intestines, are full of humors; 

for the belly cannot possibly be dry in such a country, with such 

a constitution and in such a climate; but owing to their fat, and 

the absence of hairs from their bodies, their shapes resemble one 

another, the males being all alike, and so also with the women; for 

the seasons being of a uniform temperature, no corruption or deterioration 

takes place in the concretion of the semen, unless from some violent 

cause, or from disease. 


I Will give you a strong proof of the humidity (laxity?) of their 
constitutions. You will find the greater part of the Scythians, and 
all the Nomades, with marks of the cautery on their shoulders, arms, 

wrists, breasts, hip-joints, and loins, and that for no other reason 
but the humidity and flabbiness of their constitution, for they can 
neither strain with their bows, nor launch the javelin from their 
shoulder owing to their humidity and atony: but when they are burnt, 
much of the humidity in their joints is dried up, and they become 
better braced, better fed, and their joints get into a more suitable 
condition. They are flabby and squat at first, because, as in Egypt, 
they are not swathed (?); and then they pay no attention to horsemanship, 
so that they may be adepts at it; and because of their sedentary mode 
of life; for the males, when they cannot be carried about on horseback, 
sit the most of their time in the wagon, and rarely practise walking, 
because of their frequent migrations and shiftings of situation; and 
as to the women, it is amazing how flabby and sluggish they are. The 
Scythian race are tawny from the cold, and not from the intense heat 
of the sun, for the whiteness of the skin is parched by the cold, 
and becomes tawny. 

PART 21 

It is impossible that persons of such a constitution could be prolific, 
for, with the man, the sexual desires are not strong, owing to the 
laxity of his constitution, the softness and coldness of his belly, 
from all which causes it is little likely that a man should be given 
to venery; and besides, from being jaded by exercise on horseback, 
the men become weak in their desires. On the part of the men these 
are the causes; but on that of the women, they are embonpoint and 
humidity; for the womb cannot take in the semen, nor is the menstrual 
discharge such as it should be, but scanty and at too long intervals; 
and the mouth of the womb is shut up by fat and does not admit the 
semen; and, moreover, they themselves are indolent and fat, and their 
bellies cold and soft. From these causes the Scythian race is not 
prolific. Their female servants furnish a strong proof of this; for 
they no sooner have connection with a man than they prove with child, 
owing to their active course of life and the slenderness of body. 

PART 2 2 

And, in addition to these, there are many eunuchs among the Scythians, 

who perform female work, and speak like women. Such persons are called 

effeminates. The inhabitants of the country attribute the cause of 

their impotence to a god, and venerate and worship such persons, every 

one dreading that the like might befall himself; but to me it appears 

that such affections are just as much divine as all others are, and 

that no one disease is either more divine or more human than another, 

but that all are alike divine, for that each has its own nature, and 

that no one arises without a natural cause. But I will explain how 

I think that the affection takes its rise. From continued exercise 

on horseback they are seized with chronic defluxions in their joints 

owing to their legs always hanging down below their horses; they afterwards 

become lame and stiff at the hip-joint, such of them, at least, as 

are severely attacked with it. They treat themselves in this way: 

when the disease is commencing, they open the vein behind either ear, 

and when the blood flows, sleep, from feebleness, seizes them, and 

afterwards they awaken, some in good health and others not. To me 

it appears that the semen is altered by this treatment, for there 

are veins behind the ears which, if cut, induce impotence; now, these 

veins would appear to me to be cut. Such persons afterwards, when 

they go in to women and cannot have connection with them, at first 

do not think much about it, but remain quiet; but when, after making 

the attempt two, three, or more times, they succeed no better, fancying 

they have committed some offence against the god whom they blame for 

the affection, they put on female attire, reproach themselves for 

effeminacy, play the part of women, and perform the same work as women 

do. This the rich among the Scythians endure, not the basest, but 

the most noble and powerful, owing to their riding on horseback; for 

the poor are less affected, as they do not ride on horses. And yet, 

if this disease had been more divine than the others, it ought not 

to have befallen the most noble and the richest of the Scythians alone, 

but all alike, or rather those who have little, as not being able 

to pay honors to the gods, if, indeed, they delight in being thus 

rewarded by men, and grant favors in return; for it is likely that 

the rich sacrifice more to the gods, and dedicate more votive offerings, 

inasmuch as they have wealth, and worship the gods; whereas the poor, 

from want, do less in this way, and, moreover, upbraid the gods for 

not giving them wealth, so that those who have few possessions were 

more likely to bear the punishments of these offences than the rich. 

But, as I formerly said, these affections are divine just as much 

as others, for each springs from a natural cause, and this disease 

arises among the Scythians from such a cause as I have stated. But 

it attacks other men in like manner, for whenever men ride much and 

very frequently on horseback, then many are affected with rheums in 

the joints, sciatica, and gout, and they are inept at venery. But 

these complaints befall the Scythians, and they are the most impotent 

of men for the aforesaid causes, and because they always wear breeches, 

and spend the most of their time on horseback, so as not to touch 

their privy parts with the hands, and from the cold and fatigue they 

forget the sexual desire, and do not make the attempt until after 

they have lost their virility. Thus it is with the race of the Scythians. 

PART 2 3 

The other races in Europe differ from one another, both as to stature 
and shape, owing to the changes of the seasons, which are very great 
and frequent, and because the heat is strong, the winters severe, 
and there are frequent rains, and again protracted droughts, and winds, 
from which many and diversified changes are induced. These changes 
are likely to have an effect upon generation in the coagulation of 
the semen, as this process cannot be the same in summer as in winter, 
nor in rainy as in dry weather; wherefore, I think, that the figures 
of Europeans differ more than those of Asiatics; and they differ very 
much from one another as to stature in the same city; for vitiations 
of the semen occur in its coagulation more frequently during frequent 
changes of the seasons, than where they are alike and equable. And 
the same may be said of their dispositions, for the wild, and unsociable, 
and the passionate occur in such a constitution; for frequent excitement 
of the mind induces wildness, and extinguishes sociableness and mildness 
of disposition, and therefore I think the inhabitants of Europe more 
courageous than those of Asia; for a climate which is always the same 
induces indolence, but a changeable climate, laborious exertions both 
of body and mind; and from rest and indolence cowardice is engendered, 
and from laborious exertions and pains, courage. On this account the 
inhabitants of Europe are than the Asiatics, and also owing to their 
institutions, because they are not governed by kings like the latter, 
for where men are governed by kings there they must be very cowardly, 
as I have stated before; for their souls are enslaved, and they will 
not willingly, or readily undergo dangers in order to promote the 
power of another; but those that are free undertake dangers on their 
own account, and not for the sake of others; they court hazard and 
go out to meet it, for they themselves bear off the rewards of victory, 
and thus their institutions contribute not a little to their courage. 

Such is the general character of Europe and Asia. 

PART 2 4 

And there are in Europe other tribes, differing from one another in 

stature, shape, and courage: the differences are those I formerly 

mentioned, and will now explain more clearly. Such as inhabit a country 

which is mountainous, rugged, elevated, and well watered, and where 

the changes of the seasons are very great, are likely to have great 

variety of shapes among them, and to be naturally of an enterprising 

and warlike disposition; and such persons are apt to have no little 

of the savage and ferocious in their nature; but such as dwell in 

places which are low-lying, abounding in meadows and ill ventilated, 

and who have a larger proportion of hot than of cold winds, and who 

make use of warm waters- these are not likely to be of large stature 

nor well proportioned, but are of a broad make, fleshy, and have black 

hair; and they are rather of a dark than of a light complexion, and 

are less likely to be phlegmatic than bilious; courage and laborious 

enterprise are not naturally in them, but may be engendered in them 

by means of their institutions. And if there be rivers in the country 

which carry off the stagnant and rain water from it, these may be 

wholesome and clear; but if there be no rivers, but the inhabitants 

drink the waters of fountains, and such as are stagnant and marshy, 

they must necessarily have prominent bellies and enlarged spleens. 

But such as inhabit a high country, and one that is level, windy, 

and well-watered, will be large of stature, and like to one another; 

but their minds will be rather unmanly and gentle. Those who live 

on thin, ill-watered, and bare soils, and not well attempered in the 

changes of the seasons, in such a country they are likely to be in 

their persons rather hard and well braced, rather of a blond than 

a dark complexion, and in disposition and passions haughty and self-willed. 

For, where the changes of the seasons are most frequent, and where 

they differ most from one another, there you will find their forms, 

dispositions, and nature the most varied. These are the strongest 

of the natural causes of difference, and next the country in which 

one lives, and the waters; for, in general, you will find the forms 

and dispositions of mankind to correspond with the nature of the country; 

for where the land is fertile, soft, and well-watered, and supplied 

with waters from very elevated situations, so as to be hot in summer 

and cold in winter, and where the seasons are fine, there the men 

are fleshy, have ill-formed joints, and are of a humid temperament; 

they are not disposed to endure labor, and, for the most part, are 

base in spirit; indolence and sluggishness are visible in them, and 

to the arts they are dull, and not clever nor acute. When the country 

is bare, not fenced, and rugged, blasted by the winter and scorched 

by the sun, there you may see the hardy, hardy, slender, with well-shaped 

joints, well-braced, and shaggy; sharp, industry and vigilance accompany 

such a constitution; in morals and passions they are haughty and opinionative, 

inclining rather to the fierce than to the mild; and you will find 

them acute and ingenious as regards the arts, and excelling in military 

affairs; and likewise all the other productions of the earth corresponding 

to the earth itself. Thus it is with regard to the most opposite natures 

and shapes; drawing conclusions from them, you may judge of the rest 

without any risk of error.